(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) – The countdown is on for USA Boxing’s World Championships squad as they prepare to depart for the 2011 AIBA Men’s World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. The World Championships hold additional importance in 2011, serving as the first international Olympic qualifier for the London Olympics. The 10-man team opened training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on August 22 and will depart from Colorado Springs on Saturday, September 17 for their long trip to Baku.
The 10 boxers representing Team USA all claimed their spots on the World Championships squad by winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men’s Boxing in Mobile, Ala., in early August. Yet their journey to London doesn’t end there. Since 2000, each of the boxers must also qualify internationally to officially punch their tickets for the Olympic Games. While the final list of competitors for the 2011 World Championships won’t be available until after the general weigh-in on September 25, a record 716 boxers from 216 countries are registered for the tournament.
Two-time Olympian and 2007 World Champion Rau’shee Warren (Cincinnati, Ohio) will lead Team USA into action in Baku. He will look to duplicate his efforts from the 2007 event, which served as a qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympic Games and win his second world title in Baku. His 2007 World Championships teammate Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) will join Warren once again as he vies for a World Championship in his new weight division. The 2011 event will be his third straight World Championships, but his first at the heavyweight class. Hunter lost to reigning Olympic gold medalist Roberto Camarelle at the 2009 World Championships. Welterweight Errol Spence (Desoto, Texas) joined Hunter on the 2009 World Championships team, but enters the 2011 tournament as a much more experienced boxer as he vies for his first Olympic spot.
While the remaining seven boxers don’t boast World Championships experience, they are a hungry and talented group of athletes. Two-time national champion and lightweight competitor Jose Ramirez (Avenal, Calif.) travels to Baku fresh off his first U.S. Olympic Trials victory, which included a win over returning Olympian Raynell Williams (Cleveland, Ohio) and is eager for his first international hardware. Two youngsters and fellow California natives will join him on the United States squad. Bantamweight Joseph Diaz, Jr. (S. El Monte, Calif.) has enjoyed tremendous success in the United States over the last two years, winning two national championships and gold at the Olympic Trials and he looks to extend his success to the international scene in Baku. Light flyweight Eros Correa (San Jose, Calif.) is the youngest boxer on the U.S. squad, but he has been on quite a run over the past few months, winning the Last Chance Qualifier and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and he plans to continue his winning ways at the World Championships.
Middleweight Jesse Hart (Philadelphia, Pa.) boasts quite a winning streak of his own in 2011, claiming gold at the National Golden Gloves and USA Boxing National Championships in two different weight classes before dominating the Olympic Team Trials in Mobile. Yet, the newlywed now has his eyes focused on World Championships gold as he makes the journey to Azerbaijan. Light heavyweight Marcus Browne (Staten Island, N.Y.) took a different road to the Olympic Trials, winning his berth at the National PAL Championships in October of 2010 and not competing again until Mobile. Yet, the plan worked for the talented New York native, and he hopes to surprise his international foes in the same fashion as former light heavyweight and 2004 Olympic champion Andre Ward did during his gold medal run.
The U.S. Marine Corps’ light welterweight Jamel Herring (Coram, N.Y.) will look to his experience in the military World Championships, where he won a silver medal, in his AIBA World Championships debut in Baku. Herring, who was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2007, shocked his previously well-established foes at the Olympic Trials and hopes to duplicate the feat at the World Championships.
Super heavyweight Lenroy “Cam” Thompson (Lenexa, Kansas) continues to befuddle the competition with his unique style as the two-time national champion did at the recent Olympic Trials. The breast cancer advocate will now take his one-of-a-kind approach to the World Championships.
The U.S. Squad will be led into action by USA Boxing National Coach Joe Zanders (Long Beach, Calif.) and coaches Ronald Simms (Stafford, Va.) and Manny Robles (Los Angeles, Calif.). Ken Porter (Akron, Ohio) will aid the coaches as the Technical Advisor with Ken Buffington (Davenport, Iowa) serving as the Team Manager and Dr. Marilyn Boitano (San Francisco, Calif.) joining the squad as Team Physician.
Barry Hunter (Fort Washington, Md.) and Mike Stafford (Cincinnati, Ohio) have worked with the U.S. team throughout the pre-event training camp and USA Boxing Director of Boxing Strategy Freddie Roach has been on hand for the majority of the team’s time in Colorado Springs.
The U.S. squad has been undergoing an extensive training camp at the Olympic Training Center with several professional athletes providing valuable sparring. In addition to their boxing training sessions, the athletes took part in sports psychology, nutrition, and media training classes as well as strength and conditioning workouts.
The 2011 World Championships will begin with the official event draw on September 25 with preliminary competition running from September 26 through October 5. All of the competitors will have a rest day on October 6 before action resumes with the semifinal round on October 7. The event will conclude on October 8 with final round competition in all 10 weight divisions.
The light flyweight through light heavyweight competitors must place in the top 10 at the World Championships with Hunter and Thompson needing a top six finish to qualify their spots in London. In 2007, the United States qualified five athletes at the pre-Olympic World Championships with two U.S. boxers (Warren and welterweight Demetrius Andrade) winning gold at the event, which took place in Chicago.
AIBA will be streaming the World Championships bouts on their official you tube page at www.aibaboxingtv.com and USA Boxing will be tweeting live results @usaboxing. For more information on the World Championships and Team USA, go to www.usaboxing.org.
Source: USA Boxing